LEE HORTON'S OUTDOORS: Great salmon season projected

MAYBE THIS WILL keep you warm while you wait out the winter.

According to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, this should be a good year for saltwater salmon fishing.

It all starts with the Columbia River, where more chinook and coho are expected to return than last year.

In fact, the projected coho return to the Columbia is expected to be three times higher than last year.

That strong return will boost the ocean and Strait of Juan de Fuca salmon fisheries.

This year's lower-river hatchery chinook return to the ocean should be about 225,000, which is 35,000 more than 2013. According to the state, those lower-river salmon, also called tules, are the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery.

The Columbia's ample coho return also will be a boon to the ocean fishery.

“This is the first time in more than a decade we have had exceptionally strong forecasts for chinook and coho in the same year,” state ocean fishery manager Doug Milward said in a news release.

“That's good news for anglers because those abundant runs could result in higher catch quotas for both species this summer in the ocean.”

Strait salmon projection

The summer and fall kings returning to Puget Sound is expected to total nearly 283,000 fish, slightly better than last year, so the Strait of Juan de Fuca's hatchery chinook season should be similar to 2013.

The hatchery coho fishery should also be comparable to last year, with a similar return of 873,000 silvers.

The state also said that there could be bonus bag limits this year for sockeye during the salmon fisheries in the marine areas around the Strait and the San Juan Islands.

“About 23 million sockeye salmon are forecast to return to Canada's Fraser River this year, and a portion of those fish will make their way through those marine areas,” Ryan Lothrop, state recreational fishery manager, said.

Season-setting coming up

State, tribal and federal fishery managers will meet, starting Saturday through next Thursday, in Sacramento with the Pacific Fishery Management Council to develop options for this year's commercial and recreational ocean chinook and coho salmon fisheries.

The council establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.

Additional public meetings have been scheduled throughout March to discuss regional fishery issues.

The North Olympic Peninsula meeting will be Thursday, March 20, at the Trinity Methodist Church at 100 South Black Ave. in Sequim, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Input from these regional meetings — or “discussions,” as the state calls them — will be considered as the season-setting process moves into the North of Falcon and Pacific Fishery Management Council meetings, which will determine the final 2014 salmon seasons.

The council is expected to adopt its 2014 ocean fishing seasons and harvest levels April 5-10 in Vancouver, Wash.

The 2014 salmon fisheries package for the state's inside waters also will be completed during that April meeting by the state and tribal co-managers.

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Sports Editor Lee Horton appears here Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at lhorton@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 06. 2014 8:49AM
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